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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Counterinsurgents Should Consider A "Fabrication Cell"

    5 July SWJ Blog - Counterinsurgents Should Consider A "Fabrication Cell" by Captain Josh Manchester.

    A few years ago, a bunch of smart guys at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms decided to teach a new course and open it up to any student -- not just engineering and computer science types. The course was called "How To Make (Almost) Anything." The instructors had developed a suite of off-the-shelf equipment that, when worked by those with a modicum of training, could enable students to quite literally make almost anything. They called it a "FabLab." The equipment and materials for one such Fablab cost around $20,000, and included such capabilities as the ability to print circuit boards, injection-mold plastic, and cut and fashion materials to exact tolerances. One of the professors, Neil Gershenfeld, went on to describe how the phenomenon played out in a book entitled FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop: From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. Essentially, the professors were surprised to find that a large number of those interested in the course had nothing to do with traditional disciplines involved in designing and making stuff. Gershenfeld took his Fablabs on the road to a variety of settings -- a low-income neighborhood in Boston, developing areas in South Africa, Costa Rica, and India, and other places such as Norway. He discovered that with a tiny bit of instruction, even people with no engineering backgrounds were able to conceive of and create a number of devices and contraptions to enhance their lives in one way or another. These ranged from the MIT student who created an alarm clock with wheels that had to be chased around the room in order to be turned off, to farmers in India who created a variety of means to better monitor their dairy production.

    Ultimately, Gershenfeld envisions not a roomful of equipment, but a single machine that might sit on your desktop and be able to "print" complex objects in 3D. But this is far down the road and far removed from our concerns here...

    What does this have to do with counterinsurgency?...

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    If I may share part from a letter received from a SF Engineering Sgt. currently in Afghanistan:

    We don't need converters (Note: Referring to Step up/Step down power converters; 110/220). We do need tools, electric soldering kits, Allen key kits, Jewelers tool kits (screw drivers), pocket knives, Gerber/Leatherman tools, and any cordless tool you can think of. We have tools, but they get used so much and the re-supply system is a little slow. As for electronics, we can really use external hard drives with large capacity, laptop cooling stations, USB jump drives, and small wireless mice. You asked, so there you go.
    We always ask in our letters if there is anything special they can use, because we can tend to pick all sorts of stuff up. So, our guys over there took us up on the offer.

    If this letter is any indication, a "Fabrication Cell" would be a brilliant investment, as long as they included all the "small odds and ends" that you have to have to make operation of such a "Fabrication Cell" successful.

    Btw, just for information, we have/are sending them the following materials (what we would consider the "odds and ends" type materials):

    3.6 volt lithium-ion cordless drill (small, light, portable)
    Dremel cordless Stylus tool with charger
    About 400+ different Dremel accessories
    Jeweler's screwdriver sets
    USB 2.0 256Mb. & 512Mb flash drives
    Tubes/spools of every type of solder on the market
    Cordless (AA battery) soldering irons
    Pin drills and number series drill bits
    3/8" 45 degree right angle drill with regular drill bits
    Full set of spade bits (wood boring drill bits)
    Stacks of heat shrink tubing
    Gerbers with accessory kits
    Specialized screw assortments (optical, watch type parts)
    Tweezers (actually, the best tweezers we found came as part of Chinese made dissection kits).
    Cordless mouse (notebook)

    Any suggestions on what else we could add would be appreciated.
    Last edited by Watcher In The Middle; 07-06-2007 at 06:29 PM.

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    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Watcher In The Middle View Post
    3.6 volt lithium-ion cordless drill (small, light, portable)
    Dremel cordless Stylus tool with charger
    About 400+ different Dremel accessories
    Jeweler's screwdriver sets
    USB 2.0 256Mb. & 512Mb flash drives
    Tubes/spools of every type of solder on the market
    Cordless (AA battery) soldering irons
    Pin drills and number series drill bits
    3/8" 45 degree right angle drill with regular drill bits
    Full set of spade bits (wood boring drill bits)
    Stacks of heat shrink tubing
    Gerbers with accessory kits
    Specialized screw assortments (optical, watch type parts)
    Tweezers (actually, the best tweezers we found came as part of Chinese made dissection kits).
    Cordless mouse (notebook)

    Any suggestions on what else we could add would be appreciated.

    Just a few items....

    Multiple assorted fuses
    Spare Power cording and cordsets
    Switches
    x-actor knife set
    Battery powered Voltometer
    Punch set
    Example is better than precept.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Default My Initial Thought on Reading This Was...

    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    5 July SWJ Blog - Counterinsurgents Should Consider A "Fabrication Cell" by Captain Josh Manchester.
    What is to prevent insurgents and terrorists from making insidious use of such a machine, thus further complicating the job of counterinsurgents?

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    Council Member Nat Wilcox's Avatar
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    Default Steve,

    one of my colleagues opens a paper about relative speed of adaptation with an old joke.

    Two sleeping hunters, Abe and Bob, are awakened by the sound of a bear rummaging through their cooler. Abe starts putting on his shoes as fast as possible. "That's pretty stupid," Bob says, "you can't outrun a bear." "I don't need to outrun the bear," Abe replies, "I just have to outrun you."

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Everything you'll ever need to know is right here. No need to take a college course in anything.

    http://www.lindsaybks.com/

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    Default "Fab@Home" - "Open Source" development. Interesting....

    Here's the link to the "Fab@Home" page:

    FAB@Home Link

    This thing is really pretty cool. Right now, it's kind of limited. But if you need a way to fabricate different types of small parts, this thing has potential. And it's also all "Open Source", so you avoid all the licensing costs.

    And the cost ($3995 complete) is actually not bad considering up to now it would have been probably triple, if not considerably more.
    Last edited by Watcher In The Middle; 11-04-2007 at 01:09 AM. Reason: Spelling.

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits, by Chris Anderson. Wired, Feb 2010.
    Here’s the history of two decades in one sentence: If the past 10 years have been about discovering post-institutional social models on the Web, then the next 10 years will be about applying them to the real world.

    This story is about the next 10 years.

    Transformative change happens when industries democratize, when they’re ripped from the sole domain of companies, governments, and other institutions and handed over to regular folks. The Internet democratized publishing, broadcasting, and communications, and the consequence was a massive increase in the range of both participation and participants in everything digital — the long tail of bits.

    Now the same is happening to manufacturing — the long tail of things.

    The tools of factory production, from electronics assembly to 3-D printing, are now available to individuals, in batches as small as a single unit. Anybody with an idea and a little expertise can set assembly lines in China into motion with nothing more than some keystrokes on their laptop. A few days later, a prototype will be at their door, and once it all checks out, they can push a few more buttons and be in full production, making hundreds, thousands, or more. They can become a virtual micro-factory, able to design and sell goods without any infrastructure or even inventory; products can be assembled and drop-shipped by contractors who serve hundreds of such customers simultaneously.

    Today, micro-factories make everything from cars to bike components to bespoke furniture in any design you can imagine. The collective potential of a million garage tinkerers is about to be unleashed on the global markets, as ideas go straight into production, no financing or tooling required. “Three guys with laptops” used to describe a Web startup. Now it describes a hardware company, too.

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Default Mobile Technology Complex

    The Bottomless Cargo Container, Strategy Page, 14 August 2010.
    August 14, 2010: U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has adopted an old U.S. Army concept to create mobile workshops (MTCs or Mobile Technology Complex) that can fix exotic gear (which SOCOM has a lot of), modify their special gear, or even create something new. The MTC is a modified (with new some gear) version of the decade old U.S. Army MPH (Mobile Parts Hospital).
    h/t: John Robb; "Forget Afghanistan, These are Needed in Detroit etc."

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    3D printing: The world's first printed plane, by Paul Marks. The New Scientist, 29 July 2011.
    The promise of 3D printing has finally taken off with the development of a drone that takes just a week to create

    Under darkening skies on a grass airstrip in the UK's Wiltshire Downs, north of Stonehenge, I am watching half a dozen aeronautical engineers rushing to assemble an uncrewed aircraft before the weather takes a turn for the worse. They are hoping to show how 3D printing will revolutionise the economics of aircraft design – by flying the world's first fully "printed" plane.

    Led by Andy Keane and Jim Scanlan of the University of Southampton, the team believes that 3D printing will soon allow uncrewed aircraft known as drones or UAVs to go from the drawing board to flight in a matter of days. No longer, they say, will one design of UAV be repeatedly manufactured on a production line. Instead, designers will be able to fine-tune a UAV for each specific application – whether it be crop spraying, surveillance or infrared photography – and then print a bespoke plane on demand.

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    bourbon, great article, much thanks for posting. The impact of this technology and associated open system processes on legacy industries is already having a significant impact, and probably will fall in the category of one the technologies that enabled creative destruction to the existing order over time.

    From a defense perspective we of course need to view it from at least two perspectives. First how can we leverage this technology, and second how can our foes leverage it and what does that mean to us?

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